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ABx Group Tassie drilling yields critical rare earths

Updated: Mar 21

ABx Group rare earths drilling is typically in plantations. Credit: File

ABx Group has revealed high grade critical rare earths in drilling at its Wind Break prospect, only 15km northeast of the company’s 52 million tonne Deep Leads-Rubble Mound rare earths resource in Tasmania.

Seventeen of the holes yielded samples where more than 4.5 per cent and up to 6.7 per cent of the total rare earth oxide content is made up of the more lucrative heavy rare earths dysprosium and terbium.

ABx Group managing director and chief executive officer Mark Cooksey said:

“Our ionic adsorption clay rare earths resources are exceptionally enriched in the two most critical rare earths, namely dysprosium and terbium, and the Wind Break discovery continues this pattern. It also confirms that ABx’s rare earths are mainly found in scrub country that has been converted to plantations that are more amenable for development than Tasmania’s valuable farmland. The latest results confirm ABx’s exploration technology is unravelling the origins of this unique rare earths resource and leading us to the richer and thicker mineralisation.”

All 30 drill holes report rare earths oxide mineralisation for almost their entire lengths. Minimum hole depth was 3m while maximum hole depth was 34m.

Twenty two holes out of 30 intercepted significant single or cumulative runs of rare earth oxide grades up to a maximum of 3700ppm TREO over widths usually of up to 5m and as much as about 10m.

ABx says the combined levels of dysprosium and terbium in the total rare earth assemblage constitute the highest proportion seen in any clay-hosted rare earths resource in Australia and is globally very high.

Rare earths, particularly dysprosium and terbium, are fast becoming an integral part of the electric vehicle (EV) story, given their ubiquitous use in the magnets in EV motors and in power generating wind turbines.

Dysprosium and terbium are included in EV magnets to improve thermal stability and energy density, which in turn increases their power and efficiency.

The two metals have come under the spotlight recently following gloomy predictions about the prospects of finding sufficient specialist metals to meet the demand of the growing dependency on electrification, including rare earth metals.

In its commentary on the net zero implications for supply chains, McKinsey and Co. suggest while some metals embedded in key carbon-reducing technologies, such as nickel, may experience modest shortages, others such as dysprosium and terbium which are used in most modern electric motors, could see shortages of up to 70 percent of demand by 2030 unless the imminent shortfall can be turned around.

ABx’ Wind Break prospect lies 29km west-northwest of Launceston and forms part of the company’s 100 sq km Windbreak-Deep Leads-Rubble Mound triad of targets which is enclosed by two exploration licences and one contiguous exploration licence application tying them altogether.

The recent addition of the company’s Leech Scrub and Alluvial Flats drill targets could potentially extend its high grade Deep Leads and Rubble Mound rare earths prospects further to the north-east and south/south-east respectively.

ABx might have made a timely move with its new licence application, linking its Wind Break licence to the other prospects. Being centred only 11km apart, there’s a chance that the two currently separate mineralised zones could potentially merge, which could more than double the existing resource area.

ABx’s 2024 drilling campaign began in mid-January and is focusing on potentially large scale extensions of its Deep Leads and Leech Scrub high-grade zones. The company has also kicked off drilling at its high-grade Rubble Mound zone that it says it has not yet drilled specifically for rare earths mineralisation.

Management says it is also continuing research into environmentally acceptable methods of extracting rare earths from its unique style of clay-hosted deposits.

Whilst light rare earths are relatively abundant, heavies such as dysprosium and terbium tend to be restricted to just a handful of mines in China. If ABx can get onto a sizeable dysprosium/terbium enriched deposit at Wind Break, it just might be able to offer an alternative national source of these sought after minerals.

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